Cylinder Project
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Cylinder Project

One magic ingredient for every hard conversation

Better conversations look like this.

  1. Make sure we’re understanding the other person’s ladder as well as they understand it. Asking questions, creating safety, avoiding assumptions, yadda yadda yadda.
  2. Demonstrate what your understanding is to the other person.

You must demonstrate that you understand what the other person is saying.

  • They think that you misunderstand their point. (“If only that Sally would listen, she would agree with me!”)
  • They think you’re stupid. (“That Sally just can’t get it through her thick skull, can she!”)
  • They think you’re a horrible listener. (“What’s wrong with her?”)

To stop the ping pong game, do one thing: REFLECT what the other person is saying.

Make things not awkward by naming what you’re doing

  • “Just to make sure I understand, I want to paraphrase briefly what you said.”
  • “Before you go on, I want to just check to make sure I’ve understood what you’re saying.”
  • “Do you mind if I just double-check to make sure I heard you correctly?”

Reflect their observations

  • “You saw …”
  • “You noticed …”
  • “You observed …”
  • “You heard …”
  • “You remember …”

Reflect their interpretations

  • “Because of your experience with …, you interpreted that observation to mean …”
  • “Since you’ve been thinking about …, you saw his doing X as meaning that …”
  • “To you, that meant that … because …”

Reflect their conclusions

  • “From what you could tell, you concluded that …”
  • “Based on what you could see, you thought that …”
  • “With that in mind, you were concerned …”

Double-check you got it right

  • “Did I get that right?”
  • “Was there anything missing in my understanding of what you said?”

Paraphrase again

Ask for missing pieces of the ladder

  • “Actually, I didn’t quite understand how you got from the observation that X to the conclusion that Y.”
  • “There was a piece in there about X that I didn’t quite understand. Could you elaborate?”

Only move on when you’re sure you got it…

  • “I’m glad you understand what I was saying.”
  • “Yeah. That’s pretty much it. You got it.”

You will not regret it



Turn disagreements and grievances into creativity, insight, and growth.

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